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The seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus (HSV) antibody among HIV patients within the United Kingdom is unknown. We therefore conducted a HSV seroprevalence study in HIV patients attending our genitourinary medicine clinic from January 2000 to December 2001. Our previous study1 revealed an overall prevalence of HSV-1 (60%), HSV-2 (20%), and both HSV-1 and HSV-2 (12%) among male and female genitourinary medicine clinic attendees who were either HIV negative or whose HIV status was unknown.
Serum samples from 96 consecutive ethnically diverse HIV patients were collected during routine investigations, and tested for HSV type specific antibodies by monoclonal antibody blocking enzyme linked immunoassay.2 Out of 96 patients, two HSV-1 and three HSV-2 antibody test results were equivocal in four individuals. These were excluded from the analysis and results are presented here for 92 patients.
There were 56 men and 36 women in the study: 46 (50%) were white, 43 (47%) black African, and three were from other ethnic groups. All the black Africans were heterosexuals and 71% of men were homosexuals. The median age was 35 years (range 21–80).
HSV-1 seroprevalence was 86% among men and 97% among women (p = 0.14). HSV-2 seroprevalence was 50% among men whereas it was 94% among women (p = 0.0001). There was no statistically significant difference between the seroprevalence of HSV-1 between white and black people. However, seroprevalence of HSV-2 and both serotypes was significantly higher among black than among white people.
This study shows very high seroprevalence of HSV-1 (90%), HSV-2 (67%), and both HSV-1 and HSV-2 (64%) among our HIV positive cohort in Coventry. The high prevalence of HSV-2 in women is possibly because most of them were black African and acquired HIV through sex. These findings may have important public health implications as the high rate of HSV-2 is therefore likely to act as a cofactor in HIV transmission.